Sunday night, Earth will once again be at right angles to the sun and moon, creating the first total lunar eclipse of the year.
At its peak, just after midnight, in the midst of totality, the moon will glow red, otherwise known as a super blood moon. A supermoon appears brighter and larger due to its proximity to Earth. The red-orange hue is the result of Earth’s atmosphere reflecting sunlight back to the fully eclipsed moon.
“I’ve seen some very red and very copper eclipses and they’re beautiful, but I’ve seen some eclipses that were so gray and dark that you could barely find the moon at the peak of totality,” said Bart Fried, executive vice president of the Association of Amateur Astronomers of New York City. “So it’s always interesting to observe because you never know — it’s like Forrest Gump, you never know what you’re going to get in that box of chocolates.”
The general phenomenon of an eclipse — in which three or more celestial bodies align — is also classified by astronomers as a syzygy, from the Greek word “linked together.” Although our planet will block sunlight to the moon, it will still be visible to the naked eye. The last super blood moon – in January 2019 – made for stunning photo opportunities.
The solar eclipse will begin at 9:32 p.m. in the wider New York area, with Earth’s shadow slowly creeping over the surface of the May Flower Moon. But viewers may not really notice it until it becomes a partial eclipse about an hour later. The shadow will continue to move slowly until the full moon escapes at 1:55 am
The peak — when the shadow appears most complete — will occur 11 minutes after midnight, but the moon will be completely eclipsed from 11:29 p.m. to 12:54 a.m., which lasts nearly 1.5 hours.
During this “totality phase” the northern part of the moon will be darkest, making the stars of the constellations Libra and Scorpio appear brighter and easier to see.
“Because the moon is quite high in the sky, it will be far enough up that just about anyone not blocked by an 800-story building can see it,” Fried said.
The roughly four-hour event can be seen from anywhere, without the need for a telescope or binoculars. Leaving the city limits for a dark sky will add to the space show, as the Eta Aquarids meteor showers are active in the evening sky until May 27.
“For people who want to take the time to watch the eclipse, you don’t sit there for four hours. It’s like watching paint dry; It’ll drive you crazy,’ said Fried. “You watch it right before it starts and maybe take a nice picture of the moon and every half hour, or even 15 minutes, you go out and watch the changes take place.”
The Liberty Science Center, across the Hudson River in Jersey City, invites the public to join in their lunar mania. The museum is open late from 6:30pm for planetarium exhibits, a Pink Floyd laser show, and telescopes that can be viewed until 1am. Tickets cost $22.99 – $27.99. Observing a lunar eclipse is safe with the naked eye.
The second lunar eclipse of 2022 will occur over North America on November 7.